Yesterday Mayor Len Brown announced that he would not stand again for the mayoralty next year.
Len Brown has announced that he has decided not to seek another term as Mayor of Auckland.
Mr Brown says: “It has been my absolute honour to be given the privilege to be able to serve our people as the first Mayor of a united Auckland.
“I was proud to be inaugurated as the first Mayor of the super city in 2010 and humbled to be re-elected for a second term three years later.
“However after discussions with my wife Shan and our daughters, I have decided nine years as Mayor, first of Manukau and then Auckland, are enough.
“Our opponents wrote us off from day one, but the achievements during the first five years of the new Auckland have been extraordinary.
“Auckland is more confident and positive about its future than it has been in decades. We are becoming a true international city and the symbols of our optimism are all around us.
“Electric trains, double decker buses, a growing network of cycleways, new ferry routes and most of all construction is about to begin on the City Rail Link – the most important piece of infrastructure to be built in Auckland in decades.
“Auckland is working better with government than it has in years with the Housing Accord enabling thousands of extra homes to be built and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project focussing on building vital transport infrastructure.
“We have opened up the waterfront and award winning civic amenities have been built and are now being enjoyed by people across Auckland.
“Our swimming pools are free for our kids, people will be able to cycle and walk across SkyPath on the Harbour Bridge, we have saved iconic heritage landmarks such as the St James, and that most iconic of Auckland landmarks, Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill will soon have a tree back on the summit.
“All this while the council remains committed to low rates increases, the sale of non-strategic assets, capping council debt and keeping our credit rating remains at a level many sovereign states would be jealous of.
“Aucklanders have my assurance that my commitment to this job will continue until the last day of my mayoralty. There is still enormous amount we need to achieve during the coming year.
“My best wishes to those who decide to stand for what is one of the most all-consuming jobs in the nation. Tamaki Makaurau is an extraordinary place which will place extraordinary demands on whoever takes up the challenge.”
Given the way Len and many council decisions have been portrayed in the media over – especially over the last few years – he has clearly made the only sensible choice available to him.
As the first Mayor of an amalgamated Auckland I think the Len and the council often faced some very unique challenges and ones that won’t exist for any future mayor. These include the creation of the first Auckland Plan, the Unitary Plan, the standardisation of services across the region and of course combining eight separate rating systems in to one. All of these areas were some of the key drivers behind the creation of a single council and the process of making the new council omelette was always going to require a few eggs to be broken.
On rates where Len and the council are most heavily criticised, the move to a single rating system – where everyone properties rates are determined by the same criteria – the changes have been taking place gradually over around four years. That has seen rates for some increase above the regional average (new property valuations have had an impact here too) while they have actually decreased or stayed about the same for others. With the migration out of the way there aren’t likely to be the level of increases the media have portrayed in recent years.
Simply by virtue of all of these disruptive changes having already taken place any future mayor and council is going to look much more stable and in control of what’s going on even if they carried on exactly as things are. Also let’s not forget that Len had only one of 21 votes on the council for decisions. If all of the other councillors didn’t agree with the changes then they could have voted against them.
Right now Len is seen as a lightning rod for those upset with change to focus on however I do think that history will much kinder to him. The city has come a long way in just five years and we’ve probably witnessed some of the most dramatic change the city has seen. We’ve seen
- the city become more walkable through developments like the Shared Spaces
- an internationally award winning waterfront development at Wynyard Quarter
- electric trains have been rolled out across Auckland’s network and over the five years of the council rail patronage has increased by 65%
- bus patronage has increased by 22% and double deckers have started to be rolled out
- ferry patronage has increased by 24% with new routes rolled out to Hobsonville Point and Beach Haven.
- the start of good quality cycling infrastructure e.g. on Beach Rd
- the government and council now working together on actually aligning views on transport with the recently announced ATAP process.
Of course some of those changes were already under way before the council came into being and so perhaps even more important is to also think about the next few years to see what the council have achieved.
By far the biggest achievement has to be the City Rail Link. Len has consistently pushed for the project since elected in 2010 despite the government not being supportive of it. After they agreed to the project back in 2013 he has continued to advocate for it to start earlier. The council have backed that and Albert St will be a hive of activity from about May next year as digging starts on the first section. Further we’ve had lots of suggestions from various people that the government might soon be ready to announce earlier funding.
In addition to the CRL we’ve lots of other big changes coming in the next few years. This includes:
- Over $200 million of new investment in cycleways over three years (combined with government funding).
- Over 50 double decker buses will be on road over the next year or so to increase capacity on already busy routes.
- The new bus network which will dramatically improve buses for most people.
- Integrated fares making most public transport trips cheaper and easier.
- Auckland Transport is looking at Light Rail for many routes on the isthmus as a direct response to the need to make public transport better and the city more people friendly
- The council have combined two CCOs to form Panuku Development Auckland which should see the council more involved in urban development across the region.
This is far from an exhaustive list but certainly the future looks positive thanks to the work and focus that Len and the council have had.
In saying all of this not everything has been great. Perhaps the biggest concern I’ve had and continue to do have is that Len has spent a lot of time trying to please everyone. He’s tried to do it all, for example in the Auckland Plan instead of making some tough calls as to which projects get included as priorities the council have opted to just do everything.
Still on the general balance of things I think Len has done a fairly decent job and pushed a vision for Auckland that has been positive. His legacy will be that Auckland will end up in much better place than it was when he became mayor and many future generations will benefit from the push to make Auckland a more liveable city.